We’ve all heard the expression “communication is key.” This is especially true in the workplace, where you’ve got a lot of people with different personalities spending hours upon hours in each other’s company. Having poor communication can be a recipe for disaster. For businesses to succeed, everyone needs to feel comfortable talking to everyone. Good communication can also help build up company culture, which is a great way to retain your valuable employees. If you’re looking to add some peace and harmony to your workplace, we’ve got some tips for better communication so that your office isn’t a discordant cacophony of noise (or worse, dead silent.)
1. Make sure communication is going both ways.
Ever had one of those super frustrating conversations where one person does all the talking? Yeah. We’ve all been there. It’s important to not spend all your time blabbing at your employees and instead encourage the communication to go in both directions. You should encourage your employees to share their ideas, ask questions about assignments, and give feedback. Communication is essential to making sure that projects get done right – misunderstandings about expectations can result in frustration, which can lead to resentment, which can lead to a grudge… You get the picture. It’s a nasty cycle.
2. Be an active listener.
Yes, you’re a busy person. You’re always multitasking and trying to get stuff done. But it’s really important to be engaged in every conversation you have. This shows your coworkers that you really care about them and respect their ideas and opinions. Take an interest in what they’re saying, even if they’re just telling you that they had a good weekend. Remember, you have two ears and one mouth.
Here’s an idea – pretend that each conversation will be followed by a test. Mentally note the main points of each conversation and challenge yourself to recall what you talked about and with whom. Keep yourself on your toes!
3. Avoid coming across as judgmental.
If people are scared that they’re going to be judged, disliked, scorned, or shut down if they express an idea, they’re not going to speak up. Sometimes you might not mean to come across as being judgmental or disapproving, but it can happen if you’re not careful how you word your response and use body language. Take the time to understand the idea or opinion. Promote an open, positive work environment and encourage new ideas so that people don’t have to be afraid of being embarrassed for expressing a thought. Promoting a welcoming environment can help you prevent workplace bullying.
4. Build trust within the office.
People will talk more and communicate more if there’s a trusting atmosphere around the office. It’s important that you build each other up and help each other out. One way to build trust in the office is getting to know your employees – it’s okay to be a little personal and ask them how their lives are going.
Ask them about their niece’s dance recital, how their brother’s doing, how their visit to their parents was. Of course, you need to have professionalism and boundaries, but it’s also important to know your employees as people, not just drones.
5. Be mindful of how you deliver constructive criticism.
When you’re talking with an employee about a project and giving feedback, make sure to pick up on the things that you like about their work and tell them about it. Let them know what they’ve been doing well. Then, you can politely add in the areas for improvement you see and explain why you’re suggesting the changes. The goal of feedback is to help the employee succeed, so you need to make that clear. And don’t forget to give them the chance to ask questions about your feedback!
6. Restate or repeat what you’re hearing.
One way to make sure that everyone is on the same page is to clarify what’s being said. Sometimes people beat around the bush, and sometimes miscommunications happen. An essential part of effective communication is making sure that everyone understands what’s being communicated. For example, say you’re talking to Steve about the deadline for a report. Steve seems to be trying to ask for an extension. When he’s finished speaking, you can say, “Let me make sure that I’ve understood you correctly, Steve. You’re a little overwhelmed with compiling spreadsheets at the moment and you would like to push back the deadline for your report?” That way you’re all talking about the same thing.
7. Be clear and specific.
You also need to be very clear about what you’re trying to communicate. Let’s go back to Steve. If you respond to his request for a new deadline with, “Sure, Steve, that’s fine. Just have your report to me soon,” Steve won’t know that you need the report by a certain time. However, if you respond with, “Okay, that’s fine! I understand. Would Thursday at 4 p.m. be a reasonable deadline for the report?” Steve will know exactly when he needs to get that report to you. Without that clarity, you might be tapping your foot Thursday afternoon wondering where that report is, then you might get on Steve’s case for tardiness. Then Steve gets angry because you got on his case for a miscommunication, and so on and so forth.
Remember, your employees aren’t mind readers. They need you to tell them what your expectations are in a clear, concise way.
Having clear communication is a key factor in the health of any business. Both you and your employees need to regularly communicate with each other to make sure that you’re all staying on the same page. This can help you create a positive workplace with a great culture. Building communication and building trust go hand in hand. Remember, part of communicating is listening. Say what you need to say, then listen.
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